Indonesia: Christian Churches Under Attack

UN Official Condemns Rising Religious Fanaticism

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JAKARTA, Indonesia, JAN. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Christian communities in Indonesia are reporting multiple attacks on churches and places of worship in 2010, while U.N. officials are calling for the cessation of sectarian violence and discriminatory laws that lead to interreligious conflict. 



Theophilus Bela, secretary general of the Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace and president of Jakarta Christian Communication Forum, was part of a delegation last month to the United States to raise awareness of the anti-Christian persecution in his country. 

The delegation met with religious leaders, government leaders in the White House, National Security Council, and State Department, and U.N. officials.

Bela noted that Navanethem Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that attacks on religious minorities in places like Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Indonesia should serve as a wake-up call to authorities everywhere to combat rising fanaticism. She underlined the duty of all countries to protect the freedom of religion by eradicating sectarian violence and rooting out discriminatory laws that can lead to conflict.

Assaults

Among the attacks on Christian places of worship, Bela reported that the Catholic chapel of Christ the King in Desa Blimbing was hit by a homemade bomb on Dec. 7.

A homemade bomb was also found at a Marian shrine in Prambanan at the end of November.

The Catholic chapel of St. Joseph in Pare was set on fire on Oct. 12.

On Sept. 11, a group attacked the Catholic parish church "Alleluya" in Tanah Grogot and broke the windows.

Similarly, the windows were broken at St. Bellarminus Catholic School in Jatibening by a mob of radical Muslims on May 7. The next day, the mob returned, but police were able to avert another assault.

The Catholic hospital "Brayat Minula" in Banjarsari was hit with stones, and a window was broken on the same day that Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, former archbishop of Jakarta, was due to visit for the inauguration of a new building for the institution.

A Catholic chapel in Capar was threatened on Feb. 18 by members of the Muslim Reform Movement.

The Catholic church of St. John the Baptist in Parung was prohibited from celebrating Mass on the feast of the Ascension due to a radical cleric from the local Muslim Ulama Council who often speaks out against the church.

Another radical Muslim cleric closed access to the building site of the Catholic church of St. Mary Immaculate in Kali Deras, halting progress on the construction.

Local authorities closed a place of Catholic pilgrimage in honor of Mary in Desa Jati Mulya due to protests by local Muslims.

Other radical Muslim organizations pressured local authorities to prohibit the celebration of Mass at the Catholic retreat center "Wisma Semadi Klender" in Jakarta, though the decision was later reversed through the intercession of Bela.

Radical Muslims also protested at the rectory of the Catholic parish of St. Mary the Immaculate Heart in Cicurug, and the pastor was forced to sign a letter promising that the house would be only be used as his residence and not for worship.

The Catholic chapel of Rancaekek of the parish of St. Odilia in Cicadas was closed down by local authorities.

Local authorities halted the building of St. Mary Catholic church in Purwakarta due to fear of the local radical Muslim groups.

Protestant churches

Bela's report also included attacks on various Protestant Christian churches over the past year. 

This included violence against the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant congregation in Pondok Timur, which was forced to begin celebrating services outdoors on an empty lot after authorities closed and sealed the church in July. The congregation suffered various assaults during their Sunday services, and on Sept. 12, a group of aggressors on motorcycles stabbed a 50-year-old man and beat the pastor over the head.

Bela reported that five Protestant Christian churches were burnt down and demolished, including in some cases the homes of the pastors and workers. Some ten other churches suffered mob attacks with stones, guns or threats by radical Muslim groups. Another 14 churches were closed by local authorities. 

The report concluded by stating that there have been more anti-Christian attacks, but without sufficient data on details.